Since 2001, we have been patiently transforming former farm land to vineyards and a simple stone cottage into our current tasting and production facilities. This is a family affair. Denny and Jaclyn Evans started the work. Their son Guy and daughter-in-law Rachel continued the work. Second son Luke provided business counsel and perspective from afar. Faces may change, different hands may perform the labor, but the message is the same: we are family, come join us.
Our oldest Pinot Noir block dates over 15 years. Our youngest Malbec block just completed its fifth. In between, we have learned a lot about the land, the wine it creates, and our own roles in the middle. We do know that building a great wine and a great winery are not unlike. Both require attention to detail, a sense of daring, and tenacious spirit.
When you visit our stone cottage tasting room, you stand inside the rocks of the Knapps Hill Tunnel just up the hill. Back in ’33 the tunnel was blasted and a few years later, the rubble was used to build this cottage. Thus our name – Tunnel Hill – from the center of a mountain, just up the road. We like it – sturdy, solid, and very much from the earth.
Tunnel Hill Winery founder, Denny Evans, grew up farming pears in Leavenworth, WA. In 1969 he married Linda O'Neal, daughter of Jessie and Raymond "Toad" O'Neal, whose family had homesteaded in Chelan in 1899. That same year Denny took over management of the family orchard and eventually purchased the entire farm from Toad and Jessie. In the 1970's Denny started a roadside fruit stand to bring his orchard fresh fruit directly to the customers. Over the years the venture grew to create the Sunshine Farm Market. In 2001 we planted our first block of Pinot noir and in 2004 Tunnel Hill Winery opened it doors. The original tasting room took its form in a tiny barrel room in the basement of the Stone House.
Built in 1937 with the stone from the excavation of Knapp's Hill Tunnel down the road, the Stone House was originally built by the Rainier family as their family residence. Mrs. Rainier (known to many as "Ma Rainier") taught math for over 40 years in Chelan and resided in the home well into her 90's. The Evans family purchased the house from her in 1980 and has spent the last few decades updating the residence and adding the Waterfall Garden and all the walls and paths you see today. In 2012 the larger stone production facility was added to grow our wine production from 750 cases to 1100 cases per year and better meet our customer demand for wine. No matter how much we grow we always want to be "small at heart" and hope it shows in our care towards all who visit.
The heart of Tunnel Hill lay not only in its wines but also its people who work hard to make our customers feel welcome. Whether it be creating an inviting tasting room space, tending our vineyards or keeping our grounds beautiful, we work hard to help you feel at home. We couldn't do this without our wonderful staff who truly are our "face".
Denny & Jaclyn Evans
Owners, Denny & Jaclyn Evans began Tunnel Hill Winery in 2004 and are both actively involved with its day to day operation. Having spent his entire life living and farming in North Central Washington, Denny has transferred that know-how to the diligent management of our Estate vineyards. He is also our resident handyman, gardener and the deciding palate during blending trials. Denny likes to say that he is responsible for everything that Michelle isn't good at and vice-versus. When not farming they enjoy golfing, skiing and hiking. The llamas that greet you upon pulling up to the winery not only provide an interested backdrop but also serve as pack animals during their hiking trips throughout the warmer months.
Winemaker and tasting room manager, Michelle Fanton joined Tunnel Hill Winery in 2011. Originally from Seattle, she spent 11 years studying and making wine in the Finger Lakes region of New York before returning to her home state of Washington. She brings with her an appreciation of cold climate viticulture and a philosophy that wines should be welcoming to everyone. She's particularly proud of her part in continuing the farming tradition the Evans family has created.
Farm Manager Arturo Cornejo is originally from Michoacan, Mexico. A jack of all trades (and master of many more) Arturo got his first taste of grape growing when we was 17 years old and worked harvesting grapes in Baja, California for Don Pedro brandy. After spending 15 years working in construction Arturo joined us in 2012. He and his family live on the farm where we helps Denny maintain the vineyards and winery grounds and generally keeps everything in good working order.